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Will the Government's Economic Recovery Plans support a Just Recovery from Covid-19?

31 May 2021

Monday 31 May 2021

For Immediate Release

Will Government’s Economic and Recovery Plans support a Just Recovery from Covid-19?

A broad cross-section of civil society organizations has laid out Six Principles for a Just Recovery from Covid-19 against which they will assess the Government’s National Economic Plan [1] and draft National Recovery and Resilience Plan [2], both of which are due to be published this week.

Civil society groups wrote to the three Government party leaders late last year with a shared vision for a Just Recovery urging them to base the investments and reforms in the forthcoming Plans on these Six Principles for a Just Recovery [3]:

  1. Protect and invest in public services, prioritising public health and wellbeing
  2. Invest in people
  3. Deliver faster and fairer climate action and restore and protect nature
  4. Build solidarity and community across borders
  5. Ensure inclusive and participatory decision-making
  6. Redefine progress through a focus on wellbeing and sustainable development

The groups are also calling on the Government to confirm that, although a draft Recovery Plan has been submitted to the EU, it has not been finalised. Further dialogue with civil society is essential both in relation to improvements to the draft Plan and in relation to its subsequent implementation.

Oisín Coghlan, Director of Friends of the Earth said:

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed not only major weaknesses in Ireland’s economy and health services but also deep-seated inequalities. We will be looking to see if both the Economic Plan and draft Recovery Plan prioritise investment which supports an open, fair, equal and healthy society, flourishing within ecological limits. It is essential that the 6 principles are respected and integrated into Ireland’s recovery plan.”

Issy Petrie, Research and Policy Officer, The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul said:

A key risk is that these Plans do not ensure that those most at risk or furthest behind are actively involved in planning and investment decisions. It is essential that impacted communities and marginalised groups are given the opportunity to provide input on measures and funding decisions, both in terms of their planning and final delivery at local level.” [4].

Jerry Mac Evilly, Coalition 2030 Coordinator said:

The COVID-19 pandemic is undermining progress made towards the Sustainable Development Goals both in Ireland and globally. Ireland’s economic and recovery plans must reverse this trend. The Sustainable Development Goals must be a core guiding framework, with SDG targets and indicators actively built into the ongoing design and assessment of investments and reforms.

Bríd O’Brien, Head of Policy and Media, Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed said:

“The Economic Plans and Recovery Plan must prioritise the health and wellbeing of everyone in Ireland, now and into the future, by sustainably supporting better public services to reverse existing inequalities, ensure everyone can have an adequate income and secure the needs of all.

Paul Ginnell, Director of the European Anti-Poverty Network, said:

“The Economic Plan and Resilience Plan must begin with investing in those who have been left behind, particularly to tackle the root causes of homelessness and poverty, including child poverty [5]. The National Recovery and Resilience Plan in particular must systematically prioritise investment which supports marginalised communities and groups. It is important that it integrates the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights in this regard. Ireland must also show that the objectives of gender equality and equal opportunities and outcomes for all are mainstreamed into the plan [6].”

Sadhbh O'Neill, Policy Coordinator, Stop Climate Chaos coalition, said:

“Regarding climate measures, the Recovery Plan should, as a minimum, support climate and environmental commitments under the Programme for Government. In particular, it must fully align with the Programme for Government commitment to an average 7% annual reduction in emissions and - soon to be introduced- legally-binding 5-year carbon budgets. [7] The Plan should front-load investment in essential infrastructure, such as renewables and grid improvements, to aid Ireland’s rapid decarbonisation. Spending on fossil fuel infrastructure should be explicitly excluded. It is also important that support for other measures takes account of climate objectives, so that funding is made conditional on commitment to greater climate and ecological action and other public goods.”

Oonagh Duggan, Head of Advocacy at BirdWatch Ireland said:

“The Recovery Plan should put forward investment and reforms in support of nature-based solutions as an important resilience measure for rural areas, as well as action on climate and biodiversity. Consideration should be given to accelerated restoration of raised bogs, at risk habitats, including coastal areas and nature reserves. Investments must also respect obligations regarding Environmental Impact Assessments and the ‘Do No Significant Harm’ Principle under EU law [8]. “

Yvonne O’Callaghan of SIPTU said:

“A Just Recovery means guaranteeing the right to collective bargaining and strengthening workplace democracy. The National Recovery and Resilience Plan must support a Just Transition for the workers and communities most impacted by the move to a zero pollution future, and must ensure that decent work is at the heart of Ireland’s employment policies and implementation.”

ENDS

Notes

  1. The Government’s National Economic Plan will set out the Government’s priorities and policy objectives for a sustainable recovery from Covid-19. The Plan is a commitment of the Programme for Government. The Government has noted that ‘The Plan will set an overarching framework within which key workstreams can be taken forward, building on relevant Programme for Government commitments. These will include, for example, the review of the National Development Plan and a new Climate Action Plan. It will seek to carefully balance managing the short and medium-term economic impacts of COVID-19 and Brexit with positioning our economy to optimise our longer-term resilience, growth and well-being.“ The Government consulted on the development of the Economic Plan and engaged with certain stakeholders in October 2021, however no further updates have been provided.
  2. The Government stated on Friday (28 May) that it had approved the draft of Ireland’s Recovery and Resilience Plan for submission to the European Commission in order to avail of significant EU funds and that it will publish details this week alongside a new National Economic Plan that will address Government priorities and policy objectives for a sustainable recovery to Covid-19.The Recovery and Resilience Facility will make €672.5 billion in loans and grants available to support reforms and investments undertaken by Member States. According to the European Commission ‘the aim is to mitigate the economic and social impact of the coronavirus pandemic and make European economies and societies more sustainable, resilient and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions’. Under the Facility, Member States are required to submit National Recovery and Resilience Plans to the European Commission which are to set projects and measures until 2026. Priority areas for investment and reform were proposed by the European Commission in Country Specific Recommendations to Ireland in 2019 and 2020. Ireland was due to submit its Plan by the end of April. Ireland is expected to receive approximately €915m in grants under the RRF for the period 2021-2022. A further set of grants is to be allocated in 2023. The draft Recovery and Resilience Plan will undergo a formal assessment by the European Commission before being submitted to the Council of the European Union.The Commission will also assess recovery and resilience plans against the country-specific recommendations.
  3. In 2020, a broad range of civil society organisations collaborated to produce “A Shared Vision for a Just Recovery”. The landmark joint statement endorsed by 14 national coalitions and more than 50 organisations from all sectors of Irish civil society, from trade unions to women’s and youth advocates, to community and homelessness organizations. The joint statement sets out the steps necessary for a fair and sustainable recovery from the social and economic shock of the Covid-19 pandemic in the context of these 6 principles.
  4. Under the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility, Member States must show how they involved and consulted civil society and social partners in the process of drawing up the recovery plan. The Department of the Taoiseach produced a high level consultation on Ireland’s plan in February 2021, however no further information was provided.
  5. The European Commission 2020 Country Report on Ireland highlights particular concerns regarding the rising number of homeless people as a result of rent increases and insufficient social and affordable housing and the consistently high levels of child poverty
  6. European Commission guidance recommends that Member States explain how reforms and investments supported by the plan will overcome equality challenges, in particular mitigating “the social and economic impact of the crisis on women, including in relation to gender-based and domestic violence, and how it contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality and its target”
  7. 37% of funding under the Recovery and Resilience Facility is to be allocated for climate measures.The Commission’s Country Specific Recommendations in 2020 and 2019 call on Ireland to focus investment on the green transition, including with regard to energy, transport, digital and water infrastructure, and affordable and social housing.
  8. The Do No Harm Principle is defined in Article 17 of the Taxonomy Regulation.

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